Friday, January 31, 2014

Book Review: This Extraordinary Life~ by Rachel S. Quatkemeyer

In September I got a request that kinda rocked my world. There was a message waiting for me on my Facebook page from Rachel Quatkemeyer. "I'm contacting you to ask for permission to re-print your post, Loving The Lessons Everywhere, in my upcoming book, a collection of uplifting affirmations, positive poems, essays, and letters to remarkable parents of exceptional children." Wowza!!!! My post in a book??!!! A book of positivity for families? 

Of course she got my permission!! 

While I waited for the fruits of her labor to be published and available for me to show off to friends (tee hee) the excitement I had for myself quickly morphed into hope for the book itself. When my mom was raising me and my siblings--eight all together, six adopted and four landing all over the spectrum of autism--there was almost nothing out there for her to read that would give her ideas or suggestions, and even less offering hope, laughter, positive vibes, and honest sharing. The world is different now and I sometimes find myself wondering what our lives could have been like...

But mostly, I just marvel at (and do my best to give a hand to!) the voices that are changing the tone and sharing actionable ideas and friendship.

This Extraordinary Life by Rachel S. Quatkemeyer is one of those voices; a true family friend. And I'm honored to have been invited to know Rachel's fabulous dreams, beautiful writing, and positive soul!

I was thrilled to finally receive my own paperback copy of This Extraordinary Life a few days ago. It's beautiful!!! Before pulling away from the post office I had already finished reading the first essay, written intimately and with comfortable candor by Rachel Quatkemeyer. I knew right away that this was going to be an important and uplifting collection of stories, based on Rachel's reasons and style.

And, it is!!! Without avoiding honest challenges in the world of autism, parenting, or difference in general, this collection of poems and stories encourages the reader to smile, see answers in the questions, and believe in an exciting unknown and successful life for everyone in their home!

I would love to see this book in every home raising a family. After all, whether or not your child is on the spectrum of autism, you KNOW that he/she is going to have the opportunity to become friends with someone living with invisible challenges. This book will help everyone see clearly how much fabulous such a friendship could offer!

And for parents of children with autism, there are valuable and beautiful lessons in each story. Regardless of your personal parenting style, you'll find treasures in the adventures of those who have ventured before you. And the friendship this book offer's goes further...

Rachel writes with an honest loveliness that attaches itself to you comfortably. Through her writing she encourages you to see possibilities and wishes, and then to take those extra steps and believe! Do! Try again! And in gathering essays, poems, and posts she surrounds her own writing with the sharings of others who reflect this idea again and again. By including the varied voices of parents, autistics, and siblings, Rachel brilliantly gifts your family with the reminder that there are many ways to parent your children--with and without autism--and that there is no end to the creativity and ideas we can manifest! And in this way, the book invites families to truly think forward, connect, and scheme together to find their own fabulous. And, if that isn't enough...

There are websites and Facebook pages listed for most of the contributors, so you can then go and tell them what you thought, express how you feel, get to know them while they get to know you! A true everlasting friendship can grow!

This Extraordinary Life is more than a book. It's a community of beautiful ideas, people, and differences, invited to be known. Invited by the talented and beautiful believer in dreams, Rachel Quatkemeyer

And you are invited too!

To purchase a copy of This Extraordinary Life, follow THIS LINK! 

Everyone's looking forward to meeting you!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Autism Answer: Listen While She's Living.

My mom writes and performs music and comedy that is meant to both entertain and enlighten.

"Child to child to child; heal the world with style. Happiness gone wild, healing child to child to child."~Lynette Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad (from her song Thing to Thing to Thing) 

When my mom--Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD--discovers where she made mistakes, or followed an unhealthy path, she examples a willingness to change course. She shows us that it's a strong, intelligent person who apologizes for mistakes. Not a weak one.

"Sooner is better than later. Though, later is MUCH better than not at all."~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD

My mom--who struggled to understand why she was so different, living a life of ever-changing labels and diagnosis--travels the globe teaching, showing, and explaining how to help children and adults with similar invisible disabilities and challenges. Mom craves the comforts of home, but knows that she's needed desperately elsewhere. With families who are also hers; the ones she has the gift of answers and understanding for.

"You can't walk gingerly. You have to step in and say I am going to love you robustly, and we are going to get to the end of this!"~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD

I remember marveling with wonder and confusion as my mom fought to adopt my siblings. All of whom came from abuse, most of whom lived with disabilities and likelihoods of life on the street or in institutions. While their own parents were desperate to not care, my mom begged to be the one who could love and hug and teach them. She saved them. And while navigating a broken political system, she still found energy to prove to my new siblings that it was never them that needed fixing. They had challenges, hurts, and disabilities to overcome or learn to live with, but it was the system that was broken. Not them. And for families fighting and learning now, my mom will continue to reveal what she knows. With passion, entertaining stories, and actionable answers.

"Understanding the intricacies involved in raising someone with physical or mental challenge for those who have never experienced it is like trying to understand anything foreign; impossible, though definitely worth doing anyway."~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD

Through song, comedy, speaking, her international reality series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD, the movies she writes, the articles she publishes, the shows she's interviewed on, her podcast, her books and more.... she doesn't ever stop believing in and sharing with the world. She knows all of these things and teaches all of this, not because she's better than or smarter than, but because she's lived through it--and done so with a slightly different mind, giving her an ability to see things and make connections some of us just don't see easily.

As I think about so many amazing visionaries and believers in freedom, non-violence, and acceptance that came before, I have a hope.

As I read accolades and articles of those who made beautiful statements and stood as strong and consistent examples of truth and transparency, I have a wish.

As I learn about activists and creative non-violent passionate fighters for community that have movies made about them--often after their death--I have a thought.

I hope, wish, and want my mom to be celebrated and heard while she is still living. I want the actions she examples and the tools she shares to be easily available for every home and every family.

I see now, as my own children grow into amazing men, and as my own life is filled with happiness and gratitude that grows naturally from the seeds and soil my mom offered us kids growing up, that we are truly lucky indeed!

And if my mom is celebrated and heard now, while she's living, then everyone will have the opportunity to be so lucky. And they will also have the opportunity to see themselves and their own abilities in her, and after a short time (as is her intention) without her. If we wait until after a person dies to celebrate their visions and words, it's too easy to also assume they were better than or smarter than, and to forget that they were what we are: a person. And in that way we often lose much of the lesson, because we forget that we too can discover truth--without a visionary. We can unlearn memes and assumptions taught to us, without someone telling us how. 

Though we do often need someone like my mom, someone who is unique, to remind us to look and see. So let's listen while they're living. 

These people who are celebrated for choosing non-violence, acceptance, freedom, action, and forgiveness are worthy of celebrating! But it's a mistake to celebrate them as though they are more than. They aren't. Their words and actions resonate with us because they're congruent with what we want to see more of. 

They resonate, because they're in us too. 

They're in you. 

And that's beautiful, man!!!

"Parenting was my goal, ever since I can remember. I have learned more from teaching my children than I could have ever learned from chasing a dream with fewer people to care for. I am greedy. And so I filled my world with a lot of people to love."~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD 

"I scream into the wind I cannot find my way,
I scream into the wind I made."~Lynette Louise (from the song Brainiac)

Enjoy this music video of my mom singing what it's like to feel both smart and insane, and how to find the comfort and answers in it!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Autism Answer: Miracles Are Made!

*My brother was here visiting with me yesterday. He brought coffee and cookies, and as we sat sipping and snacking we started talking about--and marveling at!--this fun memory. I wrote this post for my Facebook page last summer, but after chatting about it with my brother yesterday, I wanted to share it here with you! Truly... it's amazing and magical!!! Enjoy!***

So, I just drove from Southern California to East Texas and I'm tired! But WOW!!! You're gonna love this!!!

After dropping my mom off in Midland, TX (she works her play therapy and neurofeedback magic with a wonderful family there) I went to gas up and ran into my brother at a middle of nowhere gas station! I mean... middle of nowhere on a long distance drive, I ran into my brother! He was driving a big work truck filled with welders and pipe-liners--men trusting him to get them to work safely--and he lives five hours from where we ran into each other!! 

I don't usually believe in sticking out my tongue and sing-songing "my mom told you so!" but if I could have shoved that beautiful vision of my once autistic brother working hard and being handsome and responsible into the doubting faces of all the "professionals" my mom spent our childhood arguing with, I totally would have!! 

AND THEN I called my other once autistic (and still socially challenged) brother and asked him to please pick me and my boys up at the airport in Dallas where I was dropping of the rental car. He hopped into his own car, drove two hours to us, navigating the city and the airport, and got us home safely with much fun and grown-up conversation along the way!! 

Growing-up my mom insisted that my brothers needed to be believed in if they were ever going to believe in themselves. There were so, so, so many professionals begging her to stop having unrealistic expectations, and there were so, so, so many times that my mom moved cities, changes schools, changed friends, changed careers, insisting that miracles can be made. I went along for the ride, often wondering how my mom could be so sure when the rest of the world insisted she was crazy to believe, and I'm so glad I was there to see and be part of the amazing miracle that is believing in what can't be seen!! Because, I promise you, looking at my brothers back then it was hard to imagine that they could grow into independent and helpful men. But my mom imagined with all her heart!!

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it."~Chinese Proverb

That was my mom. Doing it. Believing in people, knowing to raise the bar with kindness and creativity, proving over and over to my brothers that they were amazing and capable. 

And now that's my brothers. Doing it. Believing in themselves, and proving possibilities to others. Lending a hand. Being more than amazing and capable, but giving back as well!

I may be exhausted and travel weary from the long drive, but I'm buzzing with an energy that comes from knowing that it can be done! Whatever our goals are, if we are willing to see the signs and celebrate them, take our time and enjoy the journey, then miracles can be made!

Hugs, smiles and love!! 
It's nice to be home!!!

My brother, Cash, and his truck.
He likes being the guy that drives all the guys!
Makes him feel manly!!

My brother, Rye, and his car.
He came to pick us up in Dallas... no sweat!

For the record, my brothers aren't amazing because they own vehicles and navigate cities and have jobs. My brothers are amazing because they work hard, discover their passions, and go after them with confidence. It's because they heard mom when she insisted they never let labels, diagnosis, neighbors, peers, teachers, girlfriends, even us siblings, define them. They are amazing because the continue to define themselves!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Autism Answer: On Finding My Fraud

~~Author's Note: This piece first appeared HERE on the wonderful blog Homestyle Mama (with a side of autism). She invited me to write her first ever guest post back in 2012, and I nervously and excitedly agreed! Mac (Homestyle Mama) is a beautiful blogger with a fabulously eclectic family, very much like mine. She is kind, open minded, and honest. I adore her! Because she is all of these things I was at once comfortable, and equally nervous to live up to her audience's expectations. Quite fitting then that this would be the topic and sharing that came to me when I sat down to write. Please take a moment to check out her blog and Facebook page. And while you're there.... tell her I love her!!~~

On Finding my Fraud
By Tsara Shelton

Parenting, autism, happiness.. these have become things about which people tend to come to me for advice, and I gladly give it. Some days I feel confident that my ideas are quite useful.

Most days, however, I find myself actively ignoring the little lady in my head suggesting that I am a big, ugly fraud.

On Parenting: My kids are wonderful. They treat most everyone with love and respect. I have four teenage boys and they impress me daily. However, it is also true that my oldest son dropped out of school to get his GED and is a fan of smoking pot, my seventeen year old came home dangerously drunk with vomit in his hair once when he was only fourteen, my fifteen year old recently admitted to be fighting a small addiction to porn (he rarely sees any, but often wants to) and my youngest plays video games obsessively. Oh, ya. And we love to watch Family Guy together, as a family. Does that sound like the product of good parenting?

On Autism: I was the worst sibling with my autistic brothers. I’m the oldest of eight kids and all four of my brothers were on the spectrum of autism. Watching the way my sisters could comfortably play with them and believe in them made me both green with envy and angry at myself. I tried to pretend, but my brothers could feel the difference and behaved worse when I was babysitting. It was years before I started to believe my mom when she would point out possibilities for their futures. It took me years to believe in my brothers. Does that sound like someone to ask autism advice from?

On Happiness: Passersby like to ask, “Why are you always so happy??”, and my stock response is a chirpy, “Caffeine!!” There is definitely truth in this. I find it’s easy to be smiley and bouncy when my blood is flowing with coffee’s natural stimulant. However, I am also a stay at home mom whose kids are at school all day. I have a wonderful husband who wears the financial stress of bringing up teenage boys on his broad shoulders, a mom who lets me live rent free in her Texas house, gives my oldest sons a home in California while they chase their dreams, and calls daily to thank me for all my help. Does that sound like someone who has figured out the secret to happiness in a challenging world?

So, often, when I write articles or status updates, I have to fight with my fraud.

She sits in my skull, and with a snarky grin she laughs and asks me, “Who do you think you are? You don’t really know anything about autism, yet you create a Facebook page and call it Autism Answers? Whose answers? Oh, you’ll just call your mommy and get some from her I guess. And why not? You live in her house and let her pay the bills. Just call her up in Beirut where she’s working with a struggling family of autism. Just call her up so you can create a smart sounding update. Or peek in the book she wrote and just take something out of that why don’t ya?”

I drown out the sound of my fraud by pointing out that although most of my learnings do come from growing up with a wonderfully willing to teach lovingly kind of mom, they are still my learnings. Also, I am the sister of four brothers who were on the spectrum and for years I’ve been mom’s right hand man. Though I didn’t always understand or believe in my brothers the way mom did, I learned to. When my own boys started showing obvious signs of autism (lack of eye contact and language, stimming, sensitivity to clothes etc) isn’t it mom, a global autism expert, who congratulates me on my willingness to both trust my gut and reach out for help? Didn’t I do that??

I have worried about being found out as a fraud for much of my life. I never felt connected to my own choices or convinced that I was making them for the right reasons. I said and did things to sound smart, nice, fun or grown-up, depending on what I thought would most impress.

After becoming a mom, it got quickly worse. Then when I, and others, noticed that my boys seemed "strange" or "not quite ready to handle school" I got defensive and my fraud started to laugh all kinds of told you so's. For a short period I became a worse mom because I felt a strong need to see my kids looking normal in order to prove that I was in fact not a fraud, but a knowledgeable and natural mother.


I saw myself and didn’t like it. With help from my mom I spent a weekend away and alone, to get to know myself. That weekend changed my life and I started feeling intentional and insanely happy! My boys started gaining skills, finding their niche, and keeping their clothes on.

People started asking: Why are you guys always so happy? How do you have such a close relationship with your kids? So, I started sharing my tips, tricks, and ideas.

That’s when my fraud saw her chance. She piped up with doubts and an unfortunate magnifying glass.

She laughed mercilessly in my head at the word success.

But by now I had realized something about her. She’s the fraud. She isn’t who I am, she is the part of me that tries to discourage and derail. Just one small part of me.

I’m not planning on ousting her completely. She serves a purpose. She keeps it real. She reminds me to celebrate accomplishments that I may not have seen without her incessant nagging to compare with. She reminds me of what my boys are no doubt also dealing with and so I can teach accordingly.

It’s because of her that I insist on finding my own ideas and speak them with clarity, volume and honesty.

I found my fraud, and in my journey to find her--I found myself.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Autism Answer: Slow Down, My Brother Is Talking

So many people are in such a hurry.

It's great once in a while. Rushing and effectively getting tons of stuff done in a day or two feels exhilarating and fantastic! But I think it's unhealthy as a lifestyle choice, for most people.

I'm not a very "rushed" kind of gal. I don't put a lot on my plate, and rarely take on projects with deadlines or excessive multitasking warning labels. However, even I am often guilty of being in a hurry.

I like fast conversation. I like layers and quick wit and surprising revelations. I crave personal epiphanies and different ideas stumbling all over each other until they connect like some fabulous crazy integrated puzzle!

Often when there is coffee flowing and the groove is great, my brother will want desperately to add to our thoughts. He, too, finds fun in sharing perspectives, adding layers to thought, and encouraging laughter with his cheeky satire. However, at thirty-two he is a verrrrrryyyyyyy slow talker and extremely difficult to understand.

He's also used to people assuming his sounds are just sounds, and not slowing down to hear the word or even believe in it. For years and years it was only my mom who truly believed in his language. So he has a habit of giving up easy, and some of us have a habit of letting him.

Now that he's getting slightly clearer there are many family members and friends--and of course his girlfriend!--who believe, but still it is only mom, and maybe his girlfriend, that is ALWAYS willing to slow down and listen. Regardless of the to-do list, the ticking of the clock, or the quickness of the conversation.

Every time that I catch myself feeling impatient with my brother's slowness, I have to laugh. What am I in such a hurry for? The next epiphany? I already know that my brother has some of the most interesting and surprising insights of all. Why not slow down and wait for it? And his humor is brilliant!! If it's a laugh he's offering, it'll be worth the wait! 

Hearing my brother's words is always worth the wait. Letting him know we want to hear is always worth the wait. Taking time to allow him to hone his skill rather than make him feel inadequate is forever worth the wait. 

This is what I'm so passionate about sharing. The answers autism has offered me. In another home, a place where everything is easier, it is also easier to ignore important truths and take the easy way. But later, the easy way has almost always given us bad habits like blaming, rushing to success, a willingness to give up easily--or push regardless of who we might hurt--and a lack of comfortable introspection. Challenges and difference highlight the important stuff. We don't all choose to learn it or see it, but often we do. Because it offers itself to us, and because not much is easy anyway, so we're more willing to take the time.

I'm betting you have a loved one that you rush. Whether it's yourself, your child, your sibling, your spouse... maybe you're rushing language, skills, getting out the door on time. Don't beat yourself up over it, but do go ahead and slow down.

It's important to have goals, and to go after them with intention and focus. But it's also smart to take your time, to notice and connect with the world along the way. Otherwise you'll reach your goal, but you'll get there empty handed.

All the important stuff, all the people and lessons and beauty that you need in order to enjoy and use your "goal" to its fullest, happens along the way.

So slow down. Our loved ones are talking.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

~~My brother talks with his mouth, but also sometimes via typing. Still, he is verrrryyyyy slow and requires assistance. In my brother's words, "I type one letter per minute, but you can read, at whatever speed, you best perceive."--Dar Shelton~~

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Autism Answer: Addicted To Seeing

There are many people who choose drugs because they help us see the world differently. We can be creative, without too much attention to how others see us. We can forget some of our pains, and surf on a wave of relief from physical hurt or emotional fears. We sometimes see the man-made nature of society and it's rules clearer with a drug. And we can imagine a different way, free to explore ideas without getting in our own way.

There are gazillions of bodies that thrive on caffeine because we feel awake and focused and see ourselves and our lives with a buzz of confidence and energy! We can see our goals with a belief in reaching them, knowing that our abilities can be refueled at the nearest coffee bar, organic green tea grocery isle, or soda machine. We can see our own hard work and value in the moments we take to sip and reflect, using our caffeine crutch to "take a break".

There are bunches of folks who cling to routine because it helps them see what's coming next without fear of unexpected expectations. We can see our talents grow clearly when compared to yesterday's sameness, and can rely on coping skills we've already discovered to get us through the known routine. We see comfort and safety in similarity.

There are even very many boys and girls who chase the new and different, because it helps us see our edges, and know our feelings intimately. We feel focused and busy when pushing the boundaries, and our bodies and brains create chemicals that invite us to see our surroundings with a new kind of sharpness. We see ourselves with immediate clarity when waiting on the edge, prepared for the unknown.

This is a small example of addictions I see on my loved ones or myself. Not a single one of these things is something we must have to get the benefit we are seeking from it. As a matter of fact, they all get in the way of truly creating and seeing our own ability to get these benefits addiction free.

However, I have never striven for an addiction free life. Just one where I see my addictions clearly, and am honest about them. After all, my mom's addiction to adopting challenged children--and inviting other challenged adults and teens to stay in our home while they put together pieces of their lives--not only saved my brothers and helped many others, but enhanced my own world and made it beautiful.

I think it's quite possible that my mom's addiction to loving seemingly unlovable people, and teaching me to do the same (because it actually didn't come natural to me, sadly), began the creation of my addiction to seeing. 

I have a very real addiction to seeing how my choices--new and old-- look and feel on me. And to seeing how they are touching and effecting my world, especially my immediate world.

I think then, what I'm suggesting and sharing, is that we all accept ourselves and our loved ones as completely human and easily addicted. But that we always keep an eye on what those addictions are and what we believe we're getting from them.

And to keep in mind that always we can see what we're hoping to see, get what we're hoping to get, without that addiction. We can be creative, pain free, energized, focused, comfortable, safe, aware of our edges, and see ourselves with sharp clarity. We don't need a vice, just intention. 

For many of us, that attention to addiction will keep us on a mostly healthy path. And for those of us who can't quite swing seeing the addiction clearly, please reach out and let others give you a hand.

Because there are also many of us who adore giving a helping hand and sharing our time and ideas with others. It helps us see our own beliefs with new eyes, and encourages us to know the value of difference, and the power of connection.

And that is something I'm pretty okay with being addicted to!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Autism Answer: Today, I Let His Dad Do It

This morning I gave up and got out of the way.

My sons have a hard time getting back into the swing of a school schedule after holidays, as do I. It's so tempting to hide away from the world and just be with each other, surrounded by people who get you, love you, are excited by your accomplishments and supportive through your missteps. 

Most of the time I'll let my kids skip one of the first days back, and that's enough to give them a feeling of control which leads to a bit of confidence. However, my youngest son is not figuring it out so easily this time.

So, I supported him a few days ago when he felt he needed one more day at home. But then this morning, he woke up around 4AM filled with stress and fear about school. I tried to take away his desperation by putting on my "It's not gonna happen kiddo" face, using a strong voice when I told him he WAS going to school today. This almost always works because he doesn't feel like he can change my mind, so he gets busy talking himself into having a good day. And then, he has a good day!

But this morning, he had a meltdown. I tried to get him to tell me what was up. I tried to learn the true issue. A kid at school being mean? A teacher with unreasonable expectations? My son, and his unreasonable expectations for himself? But, he wasn't opening up. Just crying, talking at me to himself, and spiraling in the tornado of his confused emotions. 

So, I gave up. I dropped his brother off (who then called me from a friend's phone to ask how his brother was. Love it!) picked my husband up from work, and said, "You help him."

Okay. I don't ever do that, and I don't know why. I mean... it was beautiful!!! My husband helped my son identify the issue (a mixture of his own unreasonable expectations and an unrequited romance) and then offered some much needed sound-bites. "We've never pressured you for perfect report cards because we know that the work you do comes from you. And we don't ever want you to try and be more than yourself." and "Don't love someone else more than you love yourself. If you let your world come crashing because she doesn't love you, that means your putting her above you. Don't."

There were more. My point is that my son needed to hear all of these things, but he needed to hear them from someone other than me. My husband talks to the kids, but I'm the one they most often come to and have real conversations with. Partly because I'm easier to understand (my hubby has a strong accent and an erratic conversational style) but mostly because I've orchestrated it that way. I've always kind of taken over when it comes to messages of the heart and soul.

That was a mistake!

My son ended up going to school, and he looked rather relaxed when I walked in with him. Together, with his dad and I, we came up with a plan of action to help him meet his own expectations and feel comfortable socially. 

I've been saying so often to him lately, "Sweetie, you don't need to put so much pressure and emphasis on your results. Focus a little more on the joy of doing."

I think now, after the chat he had with his dad, he might begin to do that. 

This morning's meltdown might just change his life, and his dad's life. 

And all I had to do was get out of the way.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Autism Answer: Present Yourself With Confidence

I had a fun conversation with my youngest brother this weekend. He was hanging out with me and my boys, chatting and sipping coffee, when he started telling me about a potential friend making moment he'd had with a new guy in town. "He asked me what I did for work, and I told him I just fill shampoo bottles. Then he asked me where I live and I told him about having an apartment in government housing. He said something like 'you're just a loser kind of guy then'. I watched him drive away in a nice new construction truck. I didn't really like him very much."

I asked him if he knew why the guy would think of him as a loser type. "Because I live in government housing and fill shampoo bottles." was my brothers assumption.

"Nope," I explained,"it's because you think you're just a loser kind of guy. If you had answered proudly, and honestly, that you work for the local barber and pick up extra work delivering newspapers now and then, and that you have your own place on Oak Street, the guy would have seen success. Because you would have shown it to him."

"You're right." my brother conceded.

"I know, because your story included you watching that guy drive off in a new truck. So you're still feeling as if success has to do with what people have. If you ask me, that guy sounded a bit more like a loser guy, for thinking he needed to say that to you."

"That's true." my brother said, and suddenly got excited,"That guy was a big loser and jerk! He's probably never going to be happy or successful."

So, I dialed it back a bit. "I don't agree with that, Rye. I mean, you don't even know him, and when he said you were a loser kind of guy, he was just telling you what you had told him with your attitude. He might be very happy and even nice. I'm just saying that his words were less impressive than your life."
My brother thought about it and admitted,"I guess your right. If I feel successful I'll meet more people who treat me successful. Actually, lately I've been meeting lots more people who are nice and I think it's because I'm getting better at being nice. So it makes sense to do the same thing with feeling like a successful person instead of a loser kind of guy."

Well said, little brother! 

Later on in the day my "loser kind of guy" brother drove me and my boys to town in his car because we don't have one of our own right now. I made sure to point that out as well.

When you introduce yourself or your children to others, make sure to do so with confidence! Not only will it remind people to treat you like you're successful, but it'll remind you to feel it!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers

My brother and me!

"We all have value, successes, and talent. However, if we spend our lives waiting for others to see it, then we're doing life backwards. Don't wait for it to be seen, show and share it with volume! Explore your gifts with curious confidence, and contribute the treasure that is you to our world."~Tsara Shelton

Monday, January 13, 2014

Book Review: Bet On Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood In The Age Of Barack Obama~Edited by Kenrya Rankin Naasel

In the world of autism we are chronically used to being misunderstood and stereotyped. So much so that it becomes a cycle we sometimes perpetuate ourselves.

I happen to truly love many people with autism and want to be part of a change.

In the world of black fathers, there are also chronic misunderstandings and stereotypes. So much so that it sometimes becomes a cycle they then perpetuate themselves.

I happen to truly love a black father—my husband—and stand consistently beside him as I help him work to be part of a change.

So when I learned that Kenrya Rankin Naasel had recently created and edited the book Bet On Black:African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood In The Age Of Barack Obama, inspired by President Barack Obama’s commitment to supporting responsible fathers, my heart couldn’t help but hope. Then when Kenrya offered to let me read and review the book, I’ll admit that I was equally excited and anxious. Just as Kenrya’s passion for this important book encouraged her to do the hard work of growing it into a reality, my belief in its potential to change lives and make a difference in the future of my own half-black son who will one day—hopefully!—be a black dad (partially), had me feeling a bit nervous for such high hopes. Of course, I have my own agenda and can’t expect another author/editor to know my wants or even consider them worth working their words for. So I hoped, carefully.

Well, my anxiety was quickly put to rest. Reading this collection of personal essays written by twenty different women with equal respect for fatherhood became nothing but fascinating, enlightening, and encouraging!

In this beautiful book Kenrya has gathered stories of fatherhood and family that couldn’t be more diverse. Each essay reveals different versions of love and expectation, offering honest insights about family and what it means to be a father.

I was also thrilled to immerse myself in African-American culture. Having been married to my husband for nearly thirteen years, all the while trying to fit in with his children from a previous marriage and live comfortably close to his ex-wife (who is also black), I have come to understand that there truly is an innate difference in our cultures. Differences that I hope to always celebrate, even when I can’t always understand them. As anyone who’s followed my writing knows, I adore difference and am an advocate for integration without expectation of assimilation.

Bet On Black Dads mirrors what my heart hopes to share!

While reading the stories, a portrait of very human fathers is revealed. Dads who step-up and always remain real. By the end of the book we have learned from dads who struggle to break a cycle, encourage independence and self-respect in their daughters, and example the truth that where there’s a desire to be an active father, there is always a way to do so; despite poverty, location, mistakes, support, or society’s expectations and portrayals.

With so many women sharing their dads candidly, revealing years of evolving ideas and lessons learned, it’s easy to find your own story reflected. You begin to fashion an intention in the way you see your own father, the way you respect and expect the fathering of your own children, and how you want to grow your own sons into eventual dads.

This collection of daughter/father bonds from twenty contributing women, who write with candor and skill, invites laughter, tears, and reflection.  You begin to realize that there are never-ending styles to fatherhood, and you are encouraged to have confidence while discovering the foundation of fatherhood in your own world.

Bet On Black Dads is a book that I am thrilled to share with my own family, and truly hope you will consider sharing with yours. Regardless of race, culture, or style—celebrating fatherhood is always a healthy choice and an important way to engage in community. And when we can encourage the breaking of some unfortunate stereotypes—which teach dangerous misinformation to our sons and daughters—then we are doing some important parenting ourselves!

After all, our sons and daughters are growing into this world and learning—regardless of neurology—who to be and how to expect to be treated. If we tell the story with intention, as the contributors of Bet On Black Dads have done beautifully, then we give our children the tools to write a future filled with strong families who boast proud and diverse fathers.

That is a story I plan to be an active character in.
Please consider getting your own copy of Bet On Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood In The Age Of Barack Obama and sharing it widely!

Book Title: Bet On Black: African-American Women Celebrate Fatherhood In The Age Of Barack Obama
Cover Design: April Foxx
Cover Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS-Jacquelyn Martin
Publisher: Kifani Incorporated
Buy the Book for Kindle on Amazon
Follow Kenrya on Twitter: @kenrya
Check out her blog:


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Autism Answer: The Work Of Being Lazy!

My oldest son is twenty. His dream is to become a man who plays video games, hangs out with friends, watches films of every genre, edits music for fun, creates stories via video or writing at his leisure, and is not only accepted, but also loved and applauded for his contributions--such as they are.

In our home, where autism is a key ingredient, there is nothing but comfort surrounding conversations wherein we share our passions and perseverations, and then look intentionally for how they can best benefit our future, and the future of our world. But then, unfortunately, we almost always expect to have a fight on our hands. Knowing too well how society wants desperately to see success in ways that are not at all creative and don't challenge them to see differently. Jory, my son, seems ready to fight for his laziness. 

My oldest son is so much like me, it's weird! Our skill at avoiding much responsibility is impressive, and our innate desire to be an active, thinking audience makes us seem (and very often be) lazy.

However, this kind of laziness is a lot of work! We exhaust ourselves avoiding certain people and their judgments, justifying our choices, laying out proof of our value, and running away from our own slowly-increasing-in-volume doubts that we actually have any value to prove.

Eventually--and I'm starting to see this blossoming in my son-- we start wanting to prove our lazy life as valuable badly enough that we take baby steps toward responsibility. We learn to articulate the synergistic and important need in the world for an active audience, we start to live our ideas loudly and insist they are an impressive byproduct of taking our time and observing the world freely--without deadlines or a need to prove success in society's view. We write music or paint our feelings and open our eyes to the part of ourselves we see being shared in our art, and then we step it up and become intentional and feel a bit responsible for what we see when we look at ourselves.

But always, at the core, we strive to stay some form of lazy. Those smarter than me use different words, more accurate words, like "at my own pace" or "relaxed". My mom--who is not only the hardest worker I know, but also my boss!-- always insists I'm not lazy, but "satisfied". 

These are all great ways to put it, but I actually like lazy. It's comfortable and I've always identified with it, without too much worry or concern. But with just enough concern that it helps me keep an eye on that part of myself, because I truly could become someone who does nothing but read and write, only for myself. I wouldn't be as happy as I am now, but I could do it. I'm not "driven" to become successful or rich or even not poor. So my use of the word lazy nudges me to always see and contribute my value, where it does exist.

And it does exist!! And I do see it! And I do work hard at pointing it out, so my lazy-like-me son will see it too!

The other day, when my son was explaining why he just wants to be accepted as a man who edits music for pleasure, plays video games, and is available for odd jobs when he's needed, I was more than happy to point out that society will find it easier to accept him as soon as he fully accepts himself. Knowing what he wants is step one, now going out there and being responsible for it--articulating, contributing clearly, showing his truth comfortably--is step two.

Choosing the lazy life is not easy! There is much work that needs to be done in order to live lazy happily. 

But once you know that lazy is not synonymous with useless, and once you take responsibility for finding your personal passions and abilities, and are willing to risk an injured ego and work your butt off to hone your craft and contribute your time and skill... you can make lazy look good!!

And once you can see that your lazy contributions are equally contributions, you can (and should) expect to receive something in return!

"I feel it coming in. My voice is getting an opinion."~Jory Shelton (my lovely lazy son!)

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!
Autism Answers

My oldest son: Jory Shelton
Loving the lazy life!
Driving on the sand dunes
a vacation planned and paid for by my mom!
The never lazy one!!